Criticism

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17 December, 2020

Criticism

 

Galatians 6: 1 – 6


Brothers, if someone is

caught in a sin, you who

are spiritual should

restore him gently. But

watch yourself, or you

also may be tempted.

(Gal. 6:1).


A bloke once had a go at me saying my blessing for ministry would be taken away! It was delivered with great gusto, it was blunt and public, leaving me feeling furious and judged.

 

The context was this:  a few of us were sitting in a mate’s shed discussing the whole gay marriage question (this was about 8 years ago when it had emerged as a big question for the wider church). As the conversation progressed there were big, bold statements of condemnation of gays and of those who sought to endorse marriage for them.


I shared with these blokes that my nephew was gay and as consequence had experienced his share of bullying and rejection growing up. As his uncle I did my best to respect, validate and love my troubled nephew. I posed the question to all present in the shed; when eventually my nephew decides to marry, do I compound his rejection and invalidation by refusing to support the marriage or do I affirm and engage with him and his partner and call them to live the values and grace of his Christian heritage to the full. What does God call me to do? And that’s when this bloke dropped his clanger.     


I reckon there are times when the best of Christianity can be swallowed up by the worst, and often the worst is simply mean-spirited attacks from within our faith communities. Not inspiring for those looking on at the church while it beats up on itself.


Our Lord made it really clear if you’re struggling with a brother or sister in Christ, go and sort it out, don’t further demonise them don’t assume the worst of them because you simply can’t agree on a matter. The best way to resolve the disagreement is between the two of you (Matt 18:15). It’s awkward, uncomfortable and it takes prayer. When resolved, that relationship can be stronger than ever. And it’s your opportunity to grow, in wisdom and as a disciple.



 

God of friendship and forgiveness,

You lead us on life’s journey As we gather in Your name,

Open our minds to know Your voice.

Open our hands to do Your work.

And open our hearts to hold Your Spirit.

Amen


More From 'Devotionals'

Christmas Is Really For The Children?

Christmas Is Really For The Children

Christmas is really

for the children.

Especially for children

who like animals, stables,

stars and babies wrapped

is swaddling clothes.

Then there were wise men,

Kings in fine robes,

humble shepherds and a

hint of rich perfume.

Easter is not really

for the children

unless accompanied by

a cream filled egg.

It has whips, blood, nails,

a spear and allegations

of body snatching.

It involves politics, God

and the sins of the world.

It is not good for people

of nervous disposition.

They would do better to

think on rabbits, chickens

And the first snowdrop

of spring.

This slightly jarring poem from Steve Turner reminds us that a shallow take on Christmas loses sight of the profound nature of God’s entry into the world and his ultimate purpose. A young betrothed Jewish girl of no significance has her story told for the next 2,000 years. Ah the simplicity and profoundness.

So, as we come to Christmas to celebrate the birth of Christ. We can so easily get caught up in the holiday festivities; school and work breakups visiting extended family, decorating our houses buying presence... we forget to pause give thanks for the love, hope and joy found in Jesus – our Saviour and friend. As we exchange gifts with loved ones, it is out of remembrance of the gift God gave us in Jesus. The gift that we are loved, are never alone and can have hope for the future.

After Jesus was born, a small group of wise men visited him. They recognised the kingship of Jesus and they “worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). We too, can offer up our worship and thanks to God through prayers this Christmas. Prayers of thanksgiving for the gift of hope, love and joy. We also have commoner shepherds entering the picture equally celebrating the coming of the Messiah.

Here we are 2020 and Christmas this year looks different to previous years. It may not match up to the commercial images you see or hopes you may have. But the meaning of Christmas doesn’t depend on the gifts under a tree or the type of food on your table. The message of Christmas doesn’t change if you are surrounded by family or missing loved ones. It is not affected by the house you live in – or don’t live in.

God’s love is for everyone. You are not alone. You are loved, and you can feel hopeful and joyful. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Prayer

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infant's cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory; and are bathed in its radiance.

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Faith and Doubt

Faith and Doubt

Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

PRAYER:

I place my hands in yours Lord

I place my hands in yours.

I place my will in yours Lord

I place my will in yours

I place my thoughts in yours Lord

I place my thoughts in yours

I place my days in yours Lord

I place my days in yours

I place my heart in yours Lord

I place my heart in yours

I place my life in yours Lord

I place my life in yours

Amen.

David Adam in The Book of a Thousand Prayers

Read:

Luke 1:5-20. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

(Luke 1:5-20 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

What a strange scene. An angel appears and Zechariah knows it is an angel judging by his reaction. The angel brings astonishing good news that he and his wife are to have a miraculous birth in old age. And Zechariah asks the miraculous angel standing right in front of him in plain sight, how he can be sure?

And yet is Zechariah so different from us. His problem was the clash of world views that was taking place in his life. Life experience and social norms say that old people can’t have babies whereas God was assuring him that when God is involved other alternatives open up in life. Does that not sound like your experience and mine? Isn’t it true that God asks us to do abnormal things like loving the ‘unlovable’, and sharing Good News that changes lives. Don’t we believe in a loving personal God when the world appears as secular?

And yet sometimes, when we are called to defy the norms of society by Christ do we not hesitate and say “How can I be sure?”

Doubt and hesitation are not dealt with by denial and suppression but by accepting the feelings and bringing them before God. Sitting with God and praying with the father of so long ago, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief”.

Epilogue. God gave Zechariah the proof he asked for; miraculous muteness. Strangely his silence communicated God’s message to the community better than his spoken words.

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